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January 2013



Wildfires hit the Australian state of Tasmania during record hot temperatures. The island of Tasmania lies 150 miles (240 km) of the southeastern tip of Australia; its capital is Hobart. Tasmania is one of Australia’s six states and two territories; the others are: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory.

Tasmania has moderate rainfall on the mountainous island (Legge Tor is the highest peak). It has the highest proportion of national parkland of all Australian states. The Tasmanian wilderness, which constitutes one of the world′s last expanses of temperate rainforest, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sawmilling and woodchipping industries are important. Great Lake in the interior is the largest lake and the reservoir of an important hydroelectric plant. The development of hydroelectric power in wilderness regions of Tasmania has been a controversial issue in recent years. The state’s major manufacturing includes metals and metal products. Agriculture is confined almost exclusively to small farms. The raising of sheep for wool in the East and dairy farming in the Northwest are also important. The mining of copper, zinc, tin, lead, and iron has increased in recent years.

Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. The island of Tasmania was explored in 1642 by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman, who named it Van Diemen’s Land. No formal territorial claims were made on Australia until the 1770s, when Capt. James Cook took possession of the east coast in the name of Great Britain. Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

CIA World Factbook; The Columbia Gazetteer, 12/2012; 1/2013

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